THE AGONY OF ANTWERP

To follow in detail the operations from now of the Belgian forces from
day to day would be less informing than to sum up their plan and their
effect.

As it stood on August 25 the situation was that the Belgians held all
the country to the north of the Scheldt and the Dyle, and the Germans
all the country to the south of these rivers. From Turcoing on the
French frontier to Antwerp, the Scheldt follows a course roughly
parallel to the coast. At Antwerp its bed describes a sharp bend to
seaward. Some ten miles south of this bend, the main waterway receives
the Rupel, formed by the junction to the eastward of the Dyle and the
Nethe. Taken together, the Scheldt and the Dyle, both deep, sluggish
watercourses, offer a natural defence of the seaboard provinces.

From behind this natural line of defence the Belgians, ceaselessly
on the watch, sallied forth at every chance offered, to harass and
entrap the enemy. Sudden dashes were made upon his communications by
armed motor-cars; attacks were made upon railway lines and bridges; his
convoys were unexpectedly attacked and cut up by superior forces; in a
word, he was kept in perpetual hot water.

The military effect of this was more important than may at first sight
appear. In the first place, it was made necessary for the Germans,
not only to keep heavy forces afoot in Belgium, but to disperse those
forces. Hence though the forces, taken together, were large, the
Belgians concentrated on Antwerp were in a position to deliver in
superior strength a blow at any one of these bodies, and thus to worst
the whole of them in detail.

In the second place, these Parthian tactics made the transport of
munitions and supplies to the German armies in France by the line
through Brussels a business calling for vigilance and caution. That
greatly lessened the value of the line to the enemy. On this supply
line the German right wing in France mainly depended. The Belgians,
therefore, were not merely defending their own country, but indirectly
were aiding the French and British operations on the farther side of
the French frontier.

Now the weakness of the Belgian position was that, while they
could hold the line of the Dyle and that of the Scheldt as far as
Termonde, their force was too small to bar the passage of the Scheldt
farther west. It was open to the Germans, by seizing Ghent, to turn
the defensive position in a manner that would speedily have become
dangerous. Well aware of this, the Germans advanced upon Ghent.
Coincidently, however, the Belgian operations farther east became
more active and threatening. To meet them, the Germans were obliged
to withdraw most of the troops sent to Ghent. Just at that juncture
(August 27) a body of British marines was landed at Ostend. From Ghent
the enemy had hastily to withdraw. British troops advanced to Ghent,
and the whole line of the Scheldt was secured.

The value of that move is clear. From behind the line of the Scheldt,
the Allied forces were within easy striking distance of the main
railways south of Brussels. Later on, and at a critical juncture for
the German armies in France, the Belgians cut those railways. That
these lines were not cut before was a part of the Allies’ strategy.

What in these circumstances were the measures taken by the invaders?
The main measure was, as far as possible, to depopulate the country
between their lines and the Belgian defences. The measure had two
objects–to prevent the Belgians receiving information of German
movements, and more especially of the movement of reinforcements; and
to embarrass the defence by driving into the seaboard districts crowds
of homeless and starving refugees.

The measure, however, was carried out on such a scale as to suggest
that yet another object was to prepare the way for a German immigration
as a support of the contemplated conquest. The expropriation of native
land-owners on the frontier of Prussian Poland, and the granting of
their lands to officers and non-commissioned officers of the German
army reserves, is an example of the policy, accompanied in Prussian
Poland by the prohibition of the native language in elementary schools.

European history affords happily few episodes equal to the depopulation
of part of the valley of the Meuse, which was at this time entered
upon. The towns of Dinant and Ardenne were totally destroyed, their
male populations massacred, and the women and children carried off in
defiance of every usage of civilised warfare. Indeed, to describe this
devastation of Belgium as in any sense civilised warfare would be a
travesty of the term. Its ferocity was possibly no more than a cloak
to hide a calculated purpose.

In an official declaration issued from Berlin on August 27 it was
stated that:–

The distribution of arms and ammunition among the civil
population of Belgium had been carried out on systematic lines,
and the authorities enraged the public against Germany by
assiduously circulating false reports.

They were under the impression that with the aid of the French
they would be able to drive the Germans out of Belgium in two
days.

The only means of preventing surprise attacks from the civil
population has been to interfere with unrelenting severity and
to create examples which, by their frightfulness, would be a
warning to the whole country.

On that declaration, one or two observations are necessary. Part of
the defensive force of Belgium was its Civic Guard, having a total
strength of some 400,000. So far from arming the civil population, the
Belgian Government called in the arms of this force. It was decided
that, situated as the country was, the best course was to confide its
defence to its regular troops and reserves, and so remove all excuse
for military severities.

The reports circulated by the Government of Belgium, as anybody
who refers back to them may ascertain, were carefully drawn up and
substantially true.

The statement that the Belgians were under the impression alleged in
this declaration, is, in face of the now known facts of the Allied plan
of the campaign, ludicrous.

Still more remarkable, however, is the calm assumption that neither
Belgium nor its Government had the smallest right to defend themselves,
and that any attempt to exercise that right was, in effect, an act of
rebellion against Germany. In fact, the presumption is that Belgium was
already part of Germany; and this in face of the “solemn assurance”
offered on August 9.

Last, but not least, has been the effort more recently made to suggest,
despite this declaration, that the “unrelenting severity” and “examples
of frightfulness” are hallucinations of Belgian excitement.[H]

These things speak for themselves. Nine towns in Belgium–Louvain,
Aerschot, Tirlemont, Termonde, Jodoigne, Dinant, Ardenne, Visé,
Charleroi, and Mons–had been reduced to ruins. Others, like Malines,
Diest, and Alost, had been in great part wrecked. At Liége a whole
quarter of the city had been surrounded, set on fire, and its terrified
and unarmed inhabitants, as they fled from the burning houses, shot
down wholesale by machine guns until the streets ran with blood.[I] Yet
the world was solemnly assured that it was all no more than a bad dream.

So far from aiding, as intended, the military situation of the German
forces, this policy of rapine tended to defeat itself. After the defeat
of the German armies on the Marne, the Government of Berlin made a
second offer of accommodation to the Belgian Ministry. The reply was a
sortie in full force from the Belgian lines, which obliged the enemy
to employ against them three army corps of reserves they were just
then sending through northern Belgium into France. In France, those
reinforcements were urgently needed. It is evident that this second
offer of accommodation merely had as its primary object the prompt
arrival of those troops. They had to be recalled from the French
frontier, and to join with the forces of occupation in a fiercely
fought four days’ battle.

In putting upon the renewed offer the interpretation here alluded to,
the Belgian Government were well aware that, apart altogether from its
worthlessness as a pledge, the Germans, in the political object which
had plainly from the first dictated their treatment of the population,
had signally failed. The invaders had relied as their chief instrument
on terror. The instrument had broken in their hands. Neither had they
as yet gained one real military success. On the contrary, they had
suffered either heavy reverses, or had fought at great cost actions
yielding no substantial fruits. It was in vain that half the country
had been laid waste. So long as the Belgian army, with a strongly
fortified base, held the seaboard provinces, the situation of the
invaders remained utterly secure.

To understand the true position of the Belgian resistance, it is
advisable to realise the character of the defences of Antwerp. When,
after a prolonged discussion, General Brialmont was, fifty years ago,
authorised to modernise the defences of Antwerp and Namur, and to
re-fortify Liége, he adopted, in the case of Antwerp, the resources
afforded by its situation as a seaport. The older ramparts were
demolished, and replaced, at a distance allowing for natural expansion
of the city within them, by a new inner ring of massive earthworks
between forts, of the form known as a blunted redan. The plan adopted
by Brialmont was on the system described by military engineers as the
polygonal trace, and his work has always been looked upon as one of the
best examples of that system, considered best adapted to meet the range
and accuracy of modern siege artillery.

But undoubtedly the distinctive feature was presented by the wet
ditches, 150 feet broad with some 20 feet depth of water, which
surround not only the inner works, but also the line of detached forts
built on an average two miles in advance of those works. Brialmont was
the first military engineer to carry out this idea, now followed in
all present-day fortification. Each of his forts, with a front of 700
yards, mounted 15 howitzers and 120 guns. There were thus on the 9
forts, including Merxem, 1,080 pieces of ordnance.

Since Brialmont’s time, however, his outer forts had been connected
by an enceinte, now 15 miles or thereabouts in length, strengthened
by 18 redoubts, and the second wet ditch. As a third line of defence,
there were, at the same time, built the 25 large forts and 13 redoubts,
enclosing round the city an area of some 200 square miles. Between the
first and second line of defences, the space formed an entrenched camp
of, roughly, 17,000 acres in extent.

To protect the navigation of the Scheldt, and to prevent the city from
being deprived of supplies, six of these great outer forts were placed
at commanding points along the river. By cutting the dykes on the Rupel
and the Scheldt areas could be flooded which would limit an attack
to the south and south-east, and not only enable a defending army to
concentrate its strength in that direction, but enable it behind the
outer third line of fortifications to dispute in force the passage of
the Nethe.

There were thus on the various defences some 4,000 pieces of ordnance,
and, looking at the rivers and wet ditches to be negotiated, it was
evident that an attempt to take the fortress by storm could only hope
to succeed after a very heavy bombardment followed by an attack with
overwhelmingly superior forces.

Since at Liége, as proved by the identification tallies collected
from the German dead, the attempt to storm that place, a far easier
enterprise, had cost the attackers 16,000 lives, it is no matter for
surprise that they intended to postpone an attack upon Antwerp until
their enterprise against France had proved successful.

So acute, however, was the annoyance they experienced from the Belgian
army, and so manifest the political effects of its continued activity
and being, that they resolved upon an attack with what was evidently
an insufficient though, nevertheless, a large force. This force, more
than twice as numerous as the Belgian army, succeeded in making its way
round to the north of the fortress, where both the outer and the second
line of defence were judged weakest. They had failed, however, to
reckon upon the element of defence afforded by the dykes. These at Fort
Oudendyk, and elsewhere along the Scheldt, the Belgians promptly cut,
though not before they had allowed the besiegers to place their siege
guns in position.

The result was that the Germans found themselves flooded out, and lost
a considerable part of their artillery. Men struggling breast deep
in water, or to save their guns, were shot down from the forts. Some
climbed into trees; not a few were drowned. They were forced to beat a
hasty and disastrous retreat, harassed by a sortie of the whole Belgian
army.

Not until the failure of their great expedition into France had become
manifest, with the prospective loss, in consequence, of the possession
of Belgium, the real and primary object of the war, did they address
themselves, with all the resources available, to the reduction of the
great fortress. Evidently the hope of being able, with Antwerp in their
power, to defy efforts to turn them out, inspired this enterprise.
After a bombardment with their huge 42-centimetre guns lasting some ten
days they succeeded in making a breach in the outer ring of forts, and
at the end of five days of heavy fighting drove the Belgians across the
Nethe. These successes, however, were dearly bought.

In this drama of a gallant nation’s sorrows, a spectacle which, the
world over, must endear the name of freedom afresh to every heroic
heart, no act has appealed more strongly than the gallant defence of
Antwerp and its lurid close.

Once the commercial capital of the world, adorned, to quote the words
of Motley, “with some of the most splendid edifices in Christendom,”
Antwerp has the honour which no vicissitudes can dim of being one of
the earliest seats in Europe of public spirit and liberty. Nor is it
easy to accept the belief that such a city is destined to become merely
the gateway of an ignoble Prussia.

As affairs stood at the beginning of October, the Germans were anxious
to gain some decisive success. So far, the war had failed to yield any.
They had met with heavy reverses. They were feeling sharply already the
economic effects of the virtual closing of the Rhine. In the belief
that, Belgium subjugated, no combination of Powers would be able to
tear it from their grasp, and urgent to complete that subjugation while
time yet offered, they pushed the siege with all the energy they could
command.

This hurry, as at Liége, proved prodigal. An attempt to storm fort
Waelhem alone cost nearly 8,000 men killed and wounded. As the
reduction of the outer fortifications threatened to be slow, the 11-
and 12-inch mortars at first employed were reinforced by the new
16-inch mortars throwing shells more than 800 lbs. in weight. These
ponderous engines, transported with immense labour into France, were,
with equal labour, hauled back across Belgium, and on the foundations
of demolished buildings, placed into position against the forts
situated to the south of the Nethe. At the same time, in order to
explode magazines and to fire buildings, shells were used filled with
naphtha, designed to scatter a rain of blazing oil. The besiegers’
loss of life in the attempt to storm Waelhem was avenged by destroying
the city waterworks, situated close to that fort. This reduced the
population of Antwerp to the supply afforded by such wells as were
within the city limits and made it impossible to put out fires should
they occur.

By October 5, forts Waelhem, Wavre, Ste. Catherine, and Konighoyck had
been overpowered, and the fort of Lierre silenced. All these forts lie
south of the Nethe. The villages adjacent were burned to the ground.
At Lierre, a mile to the rear of fort Lierre, a German shell crashed
through the roof of the Belgian military hospital. Some of the wounded
men lost their lives. On October 7, after a furious concentrated
bombardment, fort Broechem was a heap of ruins.

The way was thus open for a final attempt, under the weight of the
German guns, to win the passage of the Nethe. Against great odds the
Belgians offered a stubborn resistance. The action was one of the
most bloody in the Belgian campaign. In it King Albert was wounded,
though happily not seriously. This was the second injury he had met
with. All through the war he had taken an active part with his troops,
encouraging them in the trenches, braving every risk.

At the instance of the Belgian Government, the British sent to Antwerp
on October 3, under the command of General Paris, of the Royal Marine
Artillery, two naval brigades and one brigade of marines, a total
of 8,000 men, with heavy naval guns and quick-firing naval ordnance
mounted on armoured trains.

The Belgian command devolved upon General de Guise, military governor
of Antwerp, one of the youngest, but also one of the ablest of the
generals of the Belgian army. On both sides, the passage of the Nethe
was disputed with desperate determination. The German attack at this
time was directed, not only against the Belgian position north of the
Nethe, through Linth and Waerloos, but with particular energy against
forts Lierre, Kessel, and Broechen. These forts still held out. They
covered the left flank of the defence. The right flank, protected by
the flooded area along the Rupel, was unassailable.

Regardless of losses, the Germans worked day and night to float into
position and complete the parts of seven pontoon bridges they had put
together on the reaches of the river beyond the range of the forts. It
was evident that if they could turn the left of the Belgian defence by
destroying fort Broechen, and so breaching the outer defences at that
point, just to the north of the Nethe, they could, having crossed in
force farther up the stream, launch a formidable flank attack, which
must compel the whole Belgian and British force to withdraw.

It was on the Belgian left, however, that the British naval brigades
and marines had been posted. With the support of the naval guns, forts
Lierre, Kessel, and Broechen defied all the efforts to reduce them.
Very soon the fact became evident that this plan of turning the defence
was impracticable. Hidden in bomb-proof entrenchments, the British
suffered comparatively few losses, despite what seemed an appalling
rain of shells. On the other hand, the naval guns, commanding the
course of the river over a reach of ten miles, speedily made havoc of
every attempt to cross.

In these circumstances, the Germans changed their tactics. They
resolved upon a frontal attack through Duffel. Against the Belgian
lines, a furious bombardment was concentrated. Under cover of this, and
notwithstanding that, for a mile beyond the banks of the river, the
country had been flooded, they advanced in masses to rush the passage.
Simultaneously, and to prevent this attack being enfiladed by the naval
guns, they made a feint of attempting to force their way over at Lierre.

Their losses were immense. Repeatedly their shattered columns were
thrown back. For two days, at appalling sacrifice, they fought for the
passage. On the British position the attack made no impression. But at
daybreak on October 6, following an assault delivered in overwhelming
force, the enemy succeeded at length in gaining a foothold on the north
bank near Duffel, and in holding it despite all the efforts of the
Belgians to dislodge them.

The Belgian army was obliged to fall back, and with them the British
contingent, but it is evidence enough of the character and vigour
of the resistance that, heavily outnumbered though they were, the
Belgians, in retiring upon the inner defences of the fortress, left the
Germans unable immediately to follow up their advantage. The British
force withdrew without the loss of any of its guns. Indeed, the naval
guns and the armoured trains covered the retirement so effectually that
it was impossible for the Germans, until they had transferred their
heavy artillery to the north of the Nethe, to press the retreating
forces.

Beyond the boom of the hostile guns away to the south, and the nearer
crash of the fortress artillery in reply, those within the city had,
during these days of stress, little idea of how affairs were really
going. A picture of the scene on the night of Tuesday, October 6, is
given by the special correspondent of the _Daily Telegraph_:–

The night was so impelling in its exquisite beauty that I
found it impossible to sleep, or even to stay indoors.

On the other side of the river the trees were silhouetted in
the water, the slight haze giving a delicious mezzotint effect
to a scene worthy of Venice. As I walked along the stone-paved
landing piers the contrast between the beauty of the picture
and the grim prospect of what the death-dealing machinery all
along my path might make it at any moment was appealingly vivid.

Within a few hours, however, the scene changed with what to most in
the city seemed almost startling suddenness. Following a proclamation
by the authorities warning all who could to leave Antwerp as soon as
possible, began an exodus the like of which has not been witnessed
since the days of “the Spanish Fury.” The same eye-witness proceeds:–

All day the streets have been clogged and jammed with panicky
fugitives fleeing from a city which, in their terrified
imagination, is foredoomed. Every avenue of approach to the
pontoon bridge across the Scheldt leading to St. Nicolaes has
been rendered impassable by a heterogeneous mass of vehicles
of every size and kind, from the millionaire’s motor-car to
ramshackle gigs loaded up with the Lares and Penates of the
unfortunate fugitives.

Half a mile or so further on moored alongside each other were
two of the Great Eastern Railway steamboats, which ply between
Antwerp and Harwich, or, as at present, Tilbury. In view of the
very great pressure of passengers, both were to be despatched.
I walked through them. Each was filled to its utmost capacity
with refugees who might have been sardines, so closely were
they packed. In every chair round the saloon tables was a man
or a woman asleep. Others were lying on the floors, on the
deck, in chairs, or as they best could to seek a respite from
their fatigues, a few, realising that theirs would be but a
very short night–the boats were to sail at dawn so as to have
as much daylight as possible with which to navigate safely the
dangers of the mine-fields–preferred to walk about on the
jetty discussing the while their hard fate.

The St. Antoine, the leading hotel of Antwerp, has for some
weeks past been the temporary home of the various Foreign
Ministers, but with their departure to-day has closed its
doors. Last night it was the scene of an affecting leave-taking
by the Queen of the _personnel_ of the British and Russian
Legations, her Majesty being visibly moved. I am informed that
the King sent to the German commander yesterday by the hands
of a neutral _attaché_ a plan of Antwerp with the sites of the
Cathedral and other ancient monuments marked upon it, which he
begged might be spared destruction.

In the meantime, the besiegers had made an attempt to carry the inner
defences by storm. It was disastrous. Describing it, Mr. Granville
Fortescue says:–

In their advance to the inner line of forts the Germans
literally filled the dykes with their own dead. Coming on in
close formation, they were cut down by the machine guns as
wheat before the scythe.

Realising that it was, to all intents, impossible to carry the inner
defences by storm, and that the garrison must be forced to surrender
by the destruction of the place, the Germans, who had by this brought
their great guns within range of the city, opened from their new
positions along the north side of the Nethe a bombardment which, for
sustained fury, has rarely been equalled.

The bombardment began at midnight on October 7. From that time shells
rained upon the place. The havoc, heightened by bombs thrown down
from Zeppelins, speedily, and especially in the southern quarter,
caused destructive fires. Viewed from afar–the fire was seen from
the frontier of Holland–this great and beautiful seat of commerce,
industry, and art, one of the glories of Europe, looked during those
terrible hours like the crater of a volcano in eruption, with a
shower of shooting stars falling into it. Silhouetted against the
glare, its towers stood luminous amid the fiery light. Highest of all
the incomparable spire of its cathedral pointed, as though a warning
finger, into the dark sky.

[Illustration]

For some time before midnight, the roar of the cannonade had ceased.
The enemy’s guns had for a spell become silent. To the deep bay of the
cannon on the defences there came no answering defiance. At last even
the guns on the defences had suspended speech. Mr. B. J. Hudson, of the
_Central News_, one of the last English correspondents to leave, says:–

There was, uncannily enough, a grim calm before the midnight
hour and the darkened city was like a town of the dead. The
footsteps of a belated wayfarer echoed loudly.

Then suddenly came the first shell, which brought numbers of
women into the streets, their anxious object being to discover
whether the bombardment had really begun. Very closely did
the roar of the guns and the explosion and crash of the
striking shells follow each other. All over the southern
section of the city shells struck mansion, villa, and cottage
indiscriminately. Then the fortress guns, the field batteries,
and the armoured trains opened out in one loud chorus, and the
din became terrific, while the reflection in the heavens was
seemingly one huge, tossing flame.

From the roof of my hotel the spectacle was an amazing one.
The nerve-racking screech of the shells–the roof-tops of the
city alternately dimmed, then illuminated by some sudden red
light which left the darkness blacker than before–and then the
tearing out of roof or wall by the explosion, made a picture
which fell in no way short of Inferno. The assurance thus
given to the population that the Germans were fulfilling their
threat to bombard a helpless people, sent the citizens to their
cellars, as they had been advised to go by the local papers of
the day before.

About nine o’clock in the morning the German fire once more
became heavier, but the screaming of the projectiles and the
thunder of falling masonry left the fugitive population quite
unmoved.

I noticed in one case a family of father, mother, and three
small children who absolutely ignored the explosion of a shell
some sixty yards in their rear, moving stolidly on.

About ten o’clock one of the petrol storage tanks in the city
was hit and fired, and one by one the others shared its fate.

All along the River Scheldt quay barges and small steamers were
taking on human freight as rapidly as they could, charging the
wretched people 20 francs a head for the brief trip into Dutch
territory.

As soon as the flowing spirit from the petrol tanks began to
come down the stream something like a panic at last broke out.
Those on board the steamers yelled to the officers, pointing
to the danger and crying, “Enough! Enough!” Those on the quay,
unwilling to be left behind, made wild rushes to obtain a place
on the boats.

I saw one woman drowned in one of these rushes, while her
husband–rather more lucky–fell on the deck of a boat and
escaped with an injured skull. Women handed down babies, young
children, perambulators, and all manner of packages, and then
themselves scrambled on to the decks, using any precarious
foothold available. It was a wonder that many were not drowned
or otherwise killed.

Eventually the captains of the river craft, having gained as
many fares as could safely be taken, sheered off, leaving many
thousands still on the quay-side.

Still the shells were falling all over the town. The smoke from
the blazing petroleum and the burning houses rose in great
columns and must have formed an appalling sight for the people
as far north as the Dutch town of Roosendaal.

What the position is outside the city walls we do not know.
We hear our guns crashing out loud defiance to the enemy
in a persistent roar; we hear the enemy’s reply almost as
distinctly….

All that night and next day the stream of fugitives poured
out–westward towards Ostend, northward towards Holland. Of the scene
at Flushing, Mr. Fortescue wrote:–

Hordes of refugees fill this town. Some come by train from
Roosendaal, others have escaped from the city by boat. All
sorts of river craft come ploughing through the muddy waters of
the Scheldt, crowded to the gunwales with their human freight.
Tugs tow long lines of grain-lighters filled with women,
children, and old men.

Their panic is pitiful. Since the first shell shrieked over
the city a frightened, struggling mob has been pressing onward
to escape the hail of fire and iron. Imagine the queue that
shuffles forward at a championship football game increased a
hundred-fold in length and breadth, and you will see the crowd
moving to the railway station. Another throng fought their
way to the quays. All the time German shells sang dismally
overhead; for the most part they fell into the southern section
of the city.

From the refugees I hear the same pitiful tales I have heard so
often. A mother with two girls, one four and the other three,
was torn from the arm of her husband and pushed on a departing
boat. All through the panic of flight it has been “women and
children first.” Those who are here bear witness to the bravery
of those who defend the city.

But if the besiegers had imagined that they were about to reap any
solid military advantage, a disappointment was being prepared for them.
For six days they had striven to cross the Scheldt at Termonde, and
striven without success. The objective was to invest Antwerp from both
sides of the Scheldt, and thus either for the remainder of the campaign
to imprison the Belgian army, or to destroy it, amid the ruins of
Antwerp, by their shell fire. That would have been a military success
of an important character. Not only would it have left Belgium for the
time being at their mercy, but it must undoubtedly have a moral effect
not to be ignored.

On October 8, however, the invaders had gained a passage over the
Scheldt at Termonde, and had compelled the Belgian force opposing them,
much inferior in point of numbers, to fall back upon Lokeren. That
place is on the line of communication between Antwerp and Ostend. In
view of this danger, the evacuation of Antwerp became a necessity. The
danger had been foreseen. The Belgian authorities indeed had already
arrived at their decision. It is now known that this had been reached
on October 3, and that the object of the small British reinforcement
was to enable the evacuation to be accomplished. That object they
fulfilled. By the timely warning given to the population, nearly
150,000 had already been enabled to escape. All the available shipping
in the port was used for transport purposes. The rest, including some
36 captured German merchant steamers, which could not be removed owing
to the neutrality of Holland, was blown up and sunk in the docks.
Objects of value were removed, and such stores as could not, and
were likely to be of value to the enemy, were destroyed. The Belgian
Government, on October 7, transferred itself to Ostend.

The Belgian army followed. By the morning of Friday, October 9, the
evacuation had been completed. All the guns on the abandoned defences
were spiked. Under the command of General de Guise, however, the forts
controlling the approaches on the Scheldt continued to hold out.

In the meantime, the Germans had been pressing their attack upon
Lokeren. The main portion of the Belgian army and 2nd British Naval
Brigade, as well as the Marines, retired upon Ostend while the
communications remained open. The first division of the Belgian army,
which had been the last to leave Antwerp, and had been engaged in
rendering the place useless to the besiegers, retreated fighting with
the Germans north of the Scheldt a succession of rearguard actions.

In the face of impossible odds, the 1st British Naval Brigade, now
without the support of their heavy guns, were forced, fighting
tenaciously, across the Dutch frontier at Huist. A division of the
Belgian army were also compelled to cross the boundary into Holland.

Just after noon on October 9, the besiegers entered Antwerp by a breach
they had made near fort No. 3 on the south-east side of the inner line
of works. By then, the burning and ruined city presented the appearance
of a tomb. What remnant of the population remained were in hiding in
their cellars. Every person of authority had fled. Amid this scene
of wreck and desolation, the Germans made their entry and installed
their “government.” But the Belgian army had once more eluded their
grasp, and with the navigation of the Scheldt closed, the possession
of Antwerp, gained at the sacrifice of so much blood had become a
possession presenting no compensating military advantages.

At the time these lines were written, the record, as already said,
remains incomplete. Enough, however, has been outlined in this brief
sketch to prove that the struggle and the sufferings of Belgium form
one of the bravest efforts ever made for a people’s freedom, and a
protest against the policy of rapine that can never fade from the
memory of civilised nations, nor fail to command their admiration and
their respect.

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